FROM GREENLAND’S ICY MOUNTAINS
Reginald Heber, 1783–1826
“Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37, 38)
We hear many missionary sermons in our churches, but not often do we sing such a beautifully worded and challenging missionary hymn as this one, which was quickly and spontaneously written by Reginald Heber. These well-chosen words and ideas inspire us to spread the blessings of salvation to all people and nations until our Lord “in bliss returns to reign.”
Heber was a minister in the Anglican church in England. With his keen interest in world missions, he did much through his writings and influence to promote the missionary activity that greatly increased during his lifetime.
In the summer of 1819, Heber was asked by his father-in-law if he knew a worthy hymn that could be used at a missionary service the next Sunday. Reginald went at once to his study for a few minutes of quiet meditation and soon returned with the first stanzas of this text. His family was very pleased with it. Heber, however, feeling the hymn was still incomplete, returned to his study and completed the triumphant final verse.
Five years later the tune was composed specifically for Heber’s text by the noted American educator and church musician, Lowell Mason. It is said that Mason composed this tune with a great sense of inspiration.
Today, Reginald Heber is ranked as one of the foremost 19th century English hymnists, having written 57 well-known hymns, including “Holy, Holy, Holy.” As a result of his zeal for missions, he became an Anglican bishop to Calcutta, India, but died there at the age of 43. Notice how large is the Lord’s harvest field.
From Greenland’s icy mountains, from India’s coral strand, where Afric’s sunny fountains roll down their golden sand, from many an ancient river, from many a palmy plain, they call us to deliver their land from error’s chain.
Shall we, whose souls are lighted with wisdom from on high, shall we to men benighted the lamp of life deny? Salvation! O salvation! The joyful sound proclaim till earth’s remotest nation has learned Messiah’s name.
Waft, waft, ye winds, His story, and you, ye waters, roll, till like a sea of glory it spreads from pole to pole; till o’er our ransomed nature the Lamb for sinners slain, Redeemer, King, Creator, in bliss returns to reign.
For Today: Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15; John 4:35; Acts 1:8
Pray especially for some foreign missionary in your church, that the truth of this musical message might become a greater reality in today’s world—
Osbeck, K. W.
- Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, until the end of the world. Matthew 28:19-20
- And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15
- Jesus said unto them, My meat is that I may do the will of him that sent me, and finish his work. John 4:35
- But ye shall receive power of the holy Ghost, when he shall come on you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8